Few words in the last 30 years have caused more mischief than the term “inerrancy,” Richard Kremer told the congregation of Garden Lakes Baptist Church in Rome, Ga., June 24.
By Bob Allen
Biblical inerrancy – the idea that the Bible’s authors were safeguarded against error when inspired by God to write facts about science and history in Scripture – is a misleading and harmful concept that has been used to hurt people and is damaging to the cause of Christ, a Baptist pastor in Georgia said recently.
Kremer, who came to Garden Lakes three years ago from St. John’s Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., said while the word “inerrant” might seem like a perfectly fine word to describe the authenticity and authority of the Bible, the term “has been used and manipulated,” especially during the divisive area in Southern Baptist life often called the “conservative resurgence.”
“This word has in fact done horrendous damage to the character of the Bible and ruined countless lives,” Kremer said. “The cause of Christ is being damaged by its use even now.”
In a sermon text picked up by a Save Our Shorter website opposed to recent changes at the Georgia Baptist Convention-related Shorter University, Kremer referred to a biology professor there who resigned because his boss wanted him to teach theories like young-earth creationism that have no scientific basis.
In effect, Kremer said, the administrator wanted the professor to “turn a blind eye to the fossil records, ignore the evidence of geological shifts and continental drifts, ignore the pottery shards — all of which make the point that six thousand years is but a sliver of human existence on this earth, much less the history of the earth as a whole.”
Kremer, who holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the reason some people want to treat the Bible like a science book is “the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration,” which he summarized as, “God said it, and humanity wrote it down.”
Kremer said there are a few Bible passages that seem to support the idea, such as God dictating the Ten Commandments to Moses and commanding Moses to write them down. On the other hand, Kremer said, God would have to be pretty egotistical to dictate words to the psalmist to be read back as praise unto himself.
Kremer said the fact that each of the four Gospels reports different details surrounding Christ’s resurrection, such as who was present and how many angels were at the empty tomb, shows the Bible wasn’t intended to convey history in the same way that a modern historian would write a book about the Civil War.
Kremer noted that the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis says that God created everything in the world first and humanity last. Another account in Chapter 2 God created humanity first, and then followed with the natural order. Kremer said the editor of Genesis was surely smart enough to notice the discrepancy, “but he didn’t care,” because he was not proposing a scientific explanation of creation, only that it ultimately goes back to God.
Kremer also pointed out that the traditional understanding of biblical inerrancy applies not to modern versions of the Bible but to a hypothetical original referred to as “the autographs.”
“That’s very convenient,” he said. “For no one has ever seen the Bible’s original autographs. Do you know why? They don’t exist! There is not some dusty text, this original hidden away in some obscure cave in Israel.”
“The Bible came into being over a period of centuries,” Kremer said. “Its pages originated in diverse places and in diverse times. The Old Testament existed in oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation before it was ever recorded in print. When it was printed it was written in a variety of places in a variety of versions.”
“There is no such thing as an original autograph of the Scripture, and to claim such a manuscript is the basis for the inerrancy is intellectually dishonest,” he said.
Kremer said some people might desire to just dismiss the whole argument with, “Why does it matter?” but in fact it does matter what people say about the Bible.
“I don’t want young people thinking they have to discard their faith because some scientist has made a discovery that seems to contradict some biblical principle,” he said. “I don’t want a scientist having to put his/her brain on ice because his/her discoveries contradict what the Bible allegedly teaches about one scientific discipline or another.”
Kremer said Shorter University’s new statement of faith “We believe the Bible … is the inerrant and infallible Word of God” is true to a point. “When you come to talking about the character of God, the Bible is indeed inerrant,” he said. “When you’re talking about the revelation of God in Christ, we can trust that information with perfect confidence.”
Those who assert that the Bible is correct on its teaching about geology, however, “grossly misinterpret the Bible’s purpose,” he said, because the ancient biblical writers did not even know that an endeavor known as “geology” would ever exist.
Kremer said those who argue for the Bible’s perfection go beyond what Scripture has to say about itself. “The word never claims perfection for the word,” he said. “The perfection is for the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ.”